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Mobile Phones and The Workplace

We’ve all been there – we’re right in the middle of a face-to-face conversation with a close friend or family member when, without warning, they look down at their mobile phone and begin mindlessly scrolling. Or even worse, their phone rings and they take the call. 

Well it’s bad enough when that happens in our personal time, but it’s almost unbearably frustrating when it happens in the office. If employees are constantly on their mobile phone, it can have many negative effects, including irritating colleagues and impacting on employees’ productivity and performance. 

The best way to tackle this issue is to have a clear policy in place which sets out clear expectations – and consequences –concerning the permitted use of mobiles phones in the workplace. Below are our 10 easy ways you can take control of mobile phone use in your workplace. 

1. Restrict when mobiles can be used

You may wish to restrict the use of mobile phones to lunch or rest breaks, or to deal with an emergency that cannot wait until the end of the day.

2. Keep the noise down

Having mobile phones on loud or vibrate mode will alert the employee of a message or call. This can disrupt them; therefore, you should emphasise to employees that mobile phones should be kept on silent mode or they should switch them off altogether during the working day. This will also help reduce the noise from the phone affecting other colleagues’ concentration.

3. Decide where phones should be stored

You should have rules on whether employees should be allowed to keep their phone in their pockets or on their desks, or whether they must have them leave them in a locker room, staff room or a place where they can store their other belongings.

4. Leave the room to make a call

If an employee needs to make a call of a personal nature, you should encourage them to do so in a quiet area to avoid disturbing colleagues.

5. Take care when driving

For any employees that drive as part of their work duties, you must make sure they realise they should not make or receive calls, whether hand-held or hands-free, while driving. They should switch it off and make all calls go to voicemail. 

Reiterate that they must comply with this legal duty; otherwise they may end up facing disciplinary proceedings. If they repeatedly breach this policy, this may result in dismissal.

6. Tell your employees the rules

Make sure that you communicate the rules to employees. It is considered good practice to get your employees to sign a form clearly stating that they have read and understood the policy. Make sure the policy is easily accessible to them.

7. Enforce the policy

Having rules is great, but you also need to make sure that you enforce them. Constantly letting employees send a quick text here and there will send out the wrong message and they will think that, despite the policy, they can use their mobile as they wish.

8. Lead by example 

If you’re in the habit of taking calls when employees are trying to speak with you – chances are your employees will think it’s fine to do the same thing. Gone are the days when employees automatically showed deference and respect to someone just because they’re the boss. These days it’s all about leading by example.

9. Make (some) exceptions 

Some employees have a genuine need to keep their phone handy – they might have a sick relative, a little one who needs to call when they get safely home from school or a plumber coming to fix their washing machine. In these cases, it’s only fair to make an exception, and your employees will appreciate it.

10. Be fair and consistent

Make sure you apply the policy in a fair and consistent way to avoid employee concerns, a negative impact on team morale and discrimination claims. If you take different action for the same offence, it is likely that an Employment Tribunal would find this unfair and potentially discriminatory.

If you need help and advice regarding the use of mobile phones in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Richard Newstead
Latest posts by Richard Newstead (see all)
Richard Newstead

Richard qualified as a Legal Executive over 20 years ago and has significant experience in Employment law and Litigation. Richard acts for both employers and employees drafting and advising on settlement agreements, contracts of employment, consultancy agreements, directors service agreements and general workplace policies. He acts for commercial clients in the employment tribunal dealing with unfair dismissals, constructive dismissals and claims for discrimination.

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